Wednesday, June 29, 2011


We don't really follow any tradition.  For anything.  In my quest to find the perfect tradition, I keep switching things up.  For Eli's birthday, one year we had a huge Halloween party.  Another year, we had a bowling party.  Then I decided we weren't having friend parties.  Now, I've decided to have one huge party for all 3 boys, sans gifts from attendees.  I hate the whole gift-giving expectation and chaos that occurs.  I've got three boys, two who have birthdays less than a month apart.  They all want "stuff" and they all want a party.  I asked them, "Do you want a party because you want stuff or because you want to be with people you love?"  They said, "both."  Then I suggested having a party without people bringing presents and mommy and daddy will just give you a large sum of money so you can buy whatever you want.  Ding, Ding, we have a winner! I like parties.  My kids like parties.  So, I don't mind throwing them.  However, it would cost us our mortgage if I were to throw 3 birthday parties within 6 months of one another.  And I'm not even talking about a birthday party including anything fancy like a moonwalk or pony rides.  I'm just talking pizza, beverages, cake, ice cream and favors.  The end.  For the amount of folks we invite, plus the last minute folks the kids just walk up to and say, "I'm having a birthday party, you wanna come???"
There is one tradition I have done for more than one party...pinatas.  I love pinatas.  Probably because I never had a pinata.  Plus it's a fun word to  Say it.  Love it.
For either safety reasons or because someones feelings might get hurt if they are not the one who breaks it open, pinatas are not the same anymore.  Now, they come with strings you pull.  Only one secret string breaks open the pinata.  What?
Forget that.  I want kids swinging a bat at a paper mache concoction that we created as a family in hopes of releasing the hidden contents.  So, we make our own.  It takes about a week and it's crazy, but I love it. 
I don't use your standard balloon.  I use one of those Hopper balls.  Except I bought mine at Walmart on clearance for about $3.  I make a paper mache paste of flour, water and glue.  I do a layer at a time and let it dry before doing another one, with newspaper strips going in the opposite direction.  If the first layer is horizontal, then the second layer goes vertical.  I do about three layers.  Any more than that and it would be too the first one I made with 5 layers.  A grown up had to hit the thing to break it open.  I leave the handle uncovered and the little hole at the bottom where the pin is uncovered.  After I cover the whole ball and it's dry, I take out the pin, let the air out and the ball comes out the top where the handle is just fine.  I did have to slightly grease the ball with petroleum jelly first.  Just a thin layer will do.  I also found out that if you dip the strips of paper in and only get paste on one side of the strip, putting the dry side of the strip on the ball, with the wet part facing out, it is much less likely to stick.  I have two that are lopsided because they stuck.  My kids plan on making crazy monsters, so lopsidedness doesn't really matter. 
I made a handle out of 3 sheets of folded up newspaper and I paper mached them right on.  I had to hold them in place with tape.  Then I gesso'd them.  Gesso is fabulous.  It makes a paintable surface smooth and basic before you get painting.  It's a primer. 
I'm waiting for the gesso to dry.  Tomorrow the kids will paint theirs.  I'll post pics of the finished products later. 
By the way, parties are fun.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Little Ninja

My almost 4-year-old thinks he's a ninja.  Or a Power Ranger.  Or just someone who gets the bad guys.  I brought home a movie for me to watch (that rarely happens) and he says, "Are there bad guys in it?!"  Nope.  Sorry, dude.  "Then WHAT is it about????"  The movie happened to be Julie & Julia.  He was not interested in the least bit.  Lately, every picture I take of him involves some sort of power stance, like he's going to kick my butt. 
We were playing doctor today and it turned into him being a ninja.  He had a pretend head injury and I wrapped his head in a bandage...I should have known. 
As parents of boys, we decided early on that it's okay us to encourage their natural predisposition to being physical.  We wrestle, pretend to be ninjas, watch Power Rangers and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and play with and create weapons. 
Friends of ours have created a Weapons Extravaganza for the kids to partake in.  It will be a day of weaponry.  Bring your own weapons, play and have fun.  It's a great outlet for these extra physical kids to be who they are and not feel ashamed about what their impulses are. 
And yes, I own a Power Rangers t-shirt.  I am the pink ranger.  For a little while there, I had them convinced I really was.  And my husband thinks he's a ninja.  He really does.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Strange Eats, For a Kid

My oldest child is a picky eater.  If he even senses that certain foods are involved in a meal item it's completely ruined for him.  My youngest likes to pile all that is offered on his plate to only overturn it when he is refused additional foods to increase the mass of the pile.  My middle child will try anything and everything.  He ate 2 cloves of raw garlic the other day.  On purpose.  He peeled them, ate one, said, "YUM!" and peeled and ate another.  He picks the onion shoots from the garden and chomps on them.  He is the only one in the family who'll eat clams...and requests them daily.  At 15 cents a clam, I have no problem buying them often, seeing as he eats only about 5 in a sitting.  We received garlic scapes from our csa and he grabbed one and started chomping on it. 
As  much as I love his food curiosity, he has a tendency to ask for food items while grocery shopping, and then not eating them.  He says, "Well, I just thought someone else might like it for dinner."  He's also very thoughtful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


A friend of mine has been stricken ill, so a bunch of us have rallied together to provide meals for her family for the next week or so.  I have volunteered to provide a breakfast basket.  Being who I am, I cannot go to the local grocery store and buy baked goods.  My husband thinks I'm insane, but I just cannot present a basket full of Hostess, Entenmann's or Dunkin's
That said, I've been on the hunt for a yummy muffin.  I have a basic muffin recipe that I've made before, but I also haven't baked muffins in over a year, so I wanted something fresh.  I headed over to Coconut & Lime for some recipe suggestions.  A friend had suggested the website for the Onion Jam.  I had never heard of Rachel Rappaport before this.  I printed up some recipes and have been trying them out this week on the family.  First, I started with Jammy Oatmeal Streusel Muffins.  I was weary about the jam seeping out, and I didn't have her peach jam.  I had the strawberry jam I made the other week.  The end result wasn't terrific.  I didn't add enough jam, so there wasn't a lot of flavor.  The muffin itself, sans jam, was very basic.  I liked it because it wasn't like eating a cupcake for breakfast.  Plus, it was super moist.  The kids passed them along after a bite and the husband ate them because he hates to waste food, and he was hungry.  Day two brought us the Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins.  My kids inhaled these.  They fought over the next-to-last one (I kept the last for myself).  The recipe calls for two cups of blueberries, which makes for a very berrylicious muffin.  I used whole wheat flour, so they were a little drier than I wanted.  I'd up the oil next time, maybe adding a bit more sour cream.  Today we tried out Oatmeal Craisin Muffins.  Except we didn't have any craisins.  We had Thompson raisins.  Instead of nutmeg, I added a 1/8 tsp ground allspice and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  I also changed the oil to butter and added an additional splash of olive oil.  I LOVE these muffins.  I would sprinkle sugar over the tops before baking, maybe try out some chopped apple, too.  I slathered butter on them and inhaled a few before the kids even sat down.  Eli took one look at them and walked away, muttering something about how I hate him.  Odin ate three of them and Silas is currently working on one as I type this.  I wish I had a better camera so I could capture the tastiness of the muffin.  Along with the muffins, I'll be making a breakfast casserole, or stratta as some call it and a blueberry coffee cake - both recipes courtesy of Alice over at Savory Sweet Life.  I usually make both for Christmas breakfast, but I think Christmas in June is fine...I think I'll make extra.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Potty Learning

It's almost Summer and my kids are always naked.  I've an almost 4-year-old and an almost 2-year-old in diapers.  Well, that is about to come to an end...I think. 
When Eli was two, I was on the fast-track to potty training.  I bought a manual.  I made a sticker chart.  I had edible rewards, like chocolate chips, stashed in the bathroom for immediate reinforcement.  Every book said, "By the time a child is two..."  All my friends said, "By the time a child is two..."  Eli showed interest and I shoved potty training down the poor child's throat.  I won't get into the details, but that was the first time in our short-lived time together that I got frustrated, upset and raised my voice to my child.  Everyone said, "By the time a child is two...", and Eli was two and 2 months.  He was potty trained "successfully" and has never had an accident since.
Odin turned two and a half and I introduced him to the wonderful world of toilets.  I started to feel frustrated, I raised my voice, I saw the look on his face and I stopped.  There was no rush.  We homeschool.  There isn't a daycare provider wanting potty trained children.  I sat back and decided it would happen when it happened.  He was perfectly comfortable to poop and pee in his pull up, so I let him.
I thought having an older brother who modeled using the toilet would help, but it didn't.  However, having a younger brother who wants to use the potty and keep his underwear dry is helping!  I bought Silas a potty.  He picked out the color and two days later it was here.  It's taken him two weeks to want to sit on it, but it's been near him wherever we've gone.  This morning he came running out of the living room and I simply pointed in the direction of the potty.  He sat on it, backwards, and peed.  Yay!
Up until today, he's used the outdoors as his toilet.  All the boys have been thinking it's fantastic that they can pee outside.  The cats and chickens do it, why not the boys?
I put underwear on Odin two days ago.  We ran out of pull ups and I just said, "we ran out, so I'm putting underwear on you.  Let's keep them dry (a tip I got from 3 day potty training)."  His underwear, the first day, were damp and he'd finish in the potty.  Yesterday, his underwear were dry all day.  I was amazed when he ran to the bathroom, got out his Thomas potty seat and sat down.  He yelled out, "MOM! I'm going to poop!  10, 9, 8, 7 (then his brother joined in), 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!  I pooped!  Want to see?!  I've got more coming out, too!"  I was excited for him, but let him know that I'd come see when he was all done.  He is still wet overnight, but that's not a big deal. 
This stress-free learning-to-use-the-potty way has been much ...nicer.  I think having demands on yourself, as the parent, in relation to potty training can carry over to your children.  Some daycares require children to be potty trained by a certain age.  This, combined with the readiness of some children, can be so frustrating.  Over the past several years, more parents are not pushing the ready-at-two thought, which is nice to see. 
I also bought a bunch of potty books and just added put them on the coffee table.  Everyone Poops, My Big Boy Potty, Once Upon a Potty for Him, Potty, The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts.  My kids really liked Everyone Poops and Once Upon a Potty because it actually showed poop and a penis...always a winner with my kids.
 Once Upon a Potty -- Boy

Thursday, June 9, 2011

More Strawberries!!!

Okay, so I'm a little obsessed with the strawberries.  These little darlings are the first edible strawberries from our strawberry row.  It's not a patch by any means.  It's definitely a row.  And most of the berries have been devoured by things unknown to me, save these two.  Those are Eli's fingers attempting to get in the way of my picture-taking. 
After me + strawberry jam making = failure, I decided to give it a go once more.  I found THE PERFECT strawberry jam recipe, or as the creator calls it, "Hot Damn This Is Good Jam".  It is also sans pectin.  It took me longer than 30 minutes of cooking time, but thankfully while I had to leave the house, my mom took over and jammed for me.  This jam is thick and yummy.  In my previous disaster of a batch, the chunks of berries all floated to the top and the jelly sat at the bottom.  It's like fruit on the bottom yogurt, only different and reverse.  Okay, bad comparison, but you get the picture.  I followed the recipe exactly and got wonderful results.  Thank you, Christina at!
I didn't use all the berries for jam.  That would be a whole lot of strawberry jam...more than I'd need.  So, I sought after some recipes.  We got some rhubarb from our local csa.  Perfect!  Strawberry rhubarb...something...
I found an easy and super yummy recipe for strawberry rhubarb crisp over at Food & Wine. Holy cannoli it was so good.  My husband, who is not a sweets person, at more than one serving.  And took some to work.  And took more the day after. 
I still had more strawberries.  18lbs is a LOT of strawberries.  I hulled and quartered some and threw it on our salads...for four days.  I made a strawberry-blueberry-chard-kale-coconut water-lime smoothie.  That was super duper yummy.  My anti-greens child gulped two cups of the smoothie and had no idea there were greens, let alone kale and chard, in it.  Score!  And lastly, I made daiquiri's.  Virgin.  I've got little kids who want to, and usually succeed in doing so, take sips from your glass.  I used the recipe from Jennifer over at Mama's Minutia.  Easy peasy...
2 cups hulled strawberries
1 cup simple syrup
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice

Combine the ingredients in a blender.  Add ice.  We used 2 ice trays of ice. 
My directions vary from Jennifer's.  I'm a throw-it-all-in kinda girl.  It usually backfires, but this time it was delicious. 
In order to avoid a brain freeze, we all used spoons.  It was so hot that it melted before we were done, then it was tepid enough to chug. 
By the way, I think I'm making up for missing strawberry season last year. I might just go back again and pick more. 

Monday, June 6, 2011


Can we have ice cream today?  How about pizza?  When are we going swimming?  When can we have ice cream?  Can you buy donuts and ice cream and pizza and lobster today?  Why not?  When is my birthday?  When are we going to the park?  When do I have soccer?  When do we get our allowance?  Moooommmmyyyyy!!!!

I had a kindergarten workbook put out by Twin Sisters IP, LLC.  Somewhere in it was a reproducible monthly calendar.  I reproduced it and had Eli write the name of the month, the year and the days on it.  
Benefits of creating your own calendar:
practice writing skills
learn names of months
numerical order
learning days of week
understanding how a calendar works
(a month might begin on a Wednesday and end on a Thursday) 
developing a greater understanding of time

Until we started this, I heard all the above-mentioned questions daily.  The kids had no idea when things were going to happen.  They had no way of knowing, outside of me telling them, "Soon" or "In two days".  Also, if they asked for something and I had to say no, they wanted to know why and then when it could happen.  It was really frustrating for all of us. 
I downloaded a bunch of fun icons for different activities off of the Microsoft images site.  For instance, Odin wanted to have lobster, but I won't be going shopping for a few days.  I printed out a little picture of a lobster and he pasted it to the day when I'll be going shopping. 
At the end of every day, we check off that day, so they have a better visual of what has passed and can count the days til what's to come. 
We have also determined the number of take-out visits we'll have.  We have one donut, pizza and chinese food day per month.  We have ice cream days set up, too. 
Every Sunday they get their allowance.  Eli has surprised me by figuring out how much money he'll have at the end of the month.  Then, he chose to write down "comic book store" at the end of last month's calendar.  He diligently saved all his money for the month of May for his visit to the comic book store.  He had opportunities to spend it on different things throughout the month, but declined. 
Melissa & Doug have a really cute magnetic calendar available.  I also like this do-it-yourself one.  And for $9 it's pretty cheap. 
The kids have a better sense of when things are going to happen.  Creating this calendar has been really beneficial to the whole family.  The overall flow in the house is calmer, too.  I should have done this a long time ago!
Not only does this serve as a learning tool, but it's a great way to keep records for homeschooling.  Two birds, one stone, right?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Time Soldiers

We recently discovered a series of books called Time Soldiers.  These books are geared towards getting boys to read more.  My kids love books, but Eli really, really loves these books.  They are published by Big Guy Books.  They have introduced the idea of the "movie book".  Before I found the site and was introduced to that concept, I was searching the Internet for the Time Soldiers movies...but no one had them! 
We've read the books out of order, starting with number 4 - Arthur.  We got ours at the library, but Eli loved them so much that we have started a collection. 
The books are long.  And by long, I don't mean to demean literature.  But, from going from books like The Giving Tree to Time Soldiers is causing me to grab a glass of water before settling in for a read-a-loud session.  My three-year-old loses interest, as does the youngest.  They'd rather read Everyone Poops
We just finished book number 6 - Samurai and are anxiously awaiting book number 7 - Pony Express.  We still haven't read the first two, but there's plenty of time for those. 
I love that historical references are introduced in a way my son can enjoy.  The books open the door for more in depth conversations regarding medieval times or ancient japan.  We've gone on to Google other terms and topics regarding the books.  History conversations flow more easily than forced memorization of historical facts seemingly would. 
Thanks, Big Guy Books!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


It's officially strawberry season!  We went to Tougas Farm today and picked the first of the delicious berries. I was prepared to do all the picking while the boys sat and ate them or just wrestled with one another, per usual.  However, it turns out I have fabulous berry pickers for children!  We picked 18lbs of berries in about a half an hour.  We have plans for jam, pie and shortcake.   
I made an attempt to make jam.  Yup.  A bust. jar busted open in the hot water bath.  Prior to that, the pot overflowed with sugary strawberry goodness all over my stove.  Note to self - use a bigger pot, no matter how good of an eye you think you'll keep on the stove.  So, I had overflowing pots, burning sugar on the stove, glass jars busting open.  To boot, I'm pretty sure the ratio of sugar to berries to pectin is off and that the processing wasn't long enough.  I'm anticipating a very thin jam.  All I can say is, "Get out the vanilla ice cream, here comes strawberry sauce!"
Stay tuned for take number two...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

You've Got to Start Teaching Your Son SOMETHING!

 The other day I was informed by a family member that Eli said that he doesn't know how to read.  Then I was told that he was ready and, "Erica, you've got to get on the ball with him.  There's only a small window of opportunity and if you've missed it he's going to be one of those idiots working the picture register at McDonald's!"  Also, I was informed, "If you can't do it, then send him to school.  You've got two other kids, you know."

I refrained from yelling.  I smiled and said that public school will always be there.  It's always an option. 

However, I also felt like a little kid with her fingers crossed behind her back while she outright lied.  It's always an option...for other people.  What I wanted to say is this - My son is not yet in Kindergarten.  He is five and would be headed there this September.  In Kindergarten they would be starting the ABC's to get those who are unfamiliar with them up to speed.  My son, however, can read and spell and write, he just chooses not to.  He'd rather be doing something else than sitting and reading.  He's a five-year-old boy.  When he's ready, he'll do it.  I trust this and I trust him. 

I'm sure that wouldn't have gone over well and I would have left the premises. 
After I put the two littles to bed, Eli and I sit on the kitchen floor as of lately...his idea, not mine, and talk.  We also use the chalkboard wall to work out problems.  Tonight's was "What's 90 plus 90?" and "What's is 1 minus 1?"  I had him write them down and work them out. 
Then, with the conversation of the other day in my head I said, "Hey, you want to talk about some words?"  Sure.  Awesome.  Let's do it. 
I wrote AT at the top of the board and said, "Go.  What can you spell with AT?"  Cat, bat, fat and cadlac...  Let me translate:  Cadillac. 

I dislike how someones comments can make me feel like I have to prove my son's capabilities when I know them to be true to himself.  I dislike, even more so, when that someone is a family member. 

I love that my son enjoys the time we have alone together.  I love that I get to answer his questions without interruption and that we have the time to work things out.  Our best time together is late at night when he "should" be asleep.  He's always most inquisitive after dark.  I think he's a vampire...with fabulous penmanship (yes, that's his 90 + 90 up there).